Skinny Models and Sheep

I freely admit that I'm obsessed about the numbers of super-skinny models who have been on the runway. I don't mean the run-of-the-mill size 4 models but the ones who are size 0 or less. There was a presentation Monday morning by the Council of Fashion Designers of America on the issue of the models' health and eating disorders, which I found less than satisfying. No one got a chance to put the designers on the hot seat and ask them why they even hire size 0's. The presentation ended too soon. The president of the CFDA is Diane von Furstenberg, and she must have set a land speed record leaving the scene that was crowded with press as well as a bunch of eating-disorder experts who were close to being on a rampage against the industry.

Donna Karan was left to field questions, which is ironic because Donna built her business by declaring her love and respect for women with hips. At one point she must have been the fashion industry's most famous size 12 as she freely discussed her own body issues. Now she's about a size 8/10, she says, and typically selects healthy-looking models for her shows and even the occasional older model for her advertising.


Donna Karan fall 2007 collection (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews )

I did not manage to get to the cocktail party celebrating the new Coach fragrance; I was taking in the Rodarte show, which I will tell you all about later. But word from folks who attended the soiree, which was at the home of Coach designer Reed Krakoff, is that there was a seating gaffe. Krakoff is an art aficionado and apparently had several sculptures of sheep in his home. Seems as though they were mistaken for chairs and people kept trying to sit on them. Much hand waving and head shaking took place in order to get people off the art.

I went to a show by a young designer named Pegah Anvarian. It's a contemporary line which included several nicely done jackets, particularly in leather. She's still working on bottoms however. Cobweb leggings, through which you can see underwear, are not the way to go. While there, I chatted with Troy who is in marketing. He started talking about couture this and couture that, and I took the opportunity to set at least one person straight. Couture clothing is a French term which refers to the handmade clothing that comes from couture ateliers. Any old expensive clothing is not couture, it is ready-to-wear. Oscar de la Renta is not couture. Gucci is not couture. Chanel, however, does make couture. (But not the stuff that is purchased off the rack.)


Narciso Rodriguez fall 2007(AP Photo/Diane Bondareff

)

I ended my day in a tete-a-tete with the actress Julianna Margulies who was at the Narciso Rodriguez show and whose seat turned out to be next to mine. She explained that she had been too busy to get decked out in the whole Narciso kit, but that her black coat bore his label. The dress was by another designer who she politely refrained from naming since she was in Narciso's house.

By Robin Givhan |  February 6, 2007; 10:16 PM ET New York
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Comments

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Hey Sweetie...I found the blog and of course I love it! Wish I was there...but this is the next best thing.

Posted by: Mickey P | February 7, 2007 9:51 AM

Right now, I am wearing Adidas and Gap and Fossil.

Posted by: Dan | February 7, 2007 10:02 AM

So what do sheep have to do with skinny models. And if you had a clue you would know sheep just dont go along with the crowd and they are smarter than idiots like you give thme credit for. And remember a skirt cant be too short or a heel to high. And remember what James Dleaney Buffet said I am looking for s smart woman, a smart woman in real short skirt....

Posted by: vaherder | February 7, 2007 10:05 AM

Ms Givhan--as someone who typically goes right to the Post's political coverage, your byline is perhaps the only one that automatically diverts me. Love your astute and witty observations. The image of a hapless crowd attempting to sit on sheep "art" --delightful. The whole size 0 model phenomenon is extremely disturbing. Slim is one thing, and I can understand the industry's bent in that direction, but the level of emaciation required for women of model height to be a size 0 is something else entirely. I can't believe Donna Karan of all people got stuck holding the bag for the CDFA on this one. Aside from commenting on her own shows and collections, how did she address the topic?

Posted by: jan | February 7, 2007 10:28 AM

Thanks for continuing to sound the alarm about the size 0 model controversy. The fact of the matter is these poor women look hideous. They are emaciated and starved looking. It puts me in mind of Schindler's List when I see a femur with no flesh on it sticking out of a skirt. I can't believe models have died and yet the fashion industry doesn't have enough sense to go back to size 4 models (who are still tiny).

Posted by: Amy | February 7, 2007 10:37 AM

Thank the Lord we have Robin to set us all straight on the meaning of couture! All is right in the universe, thanks Robin!

Posted by: Troy | February 7, 2007 1:04 PM

Maybe Jan and Amy if you laid off the nacho and Miller Lite you to could be a size zero model. Jealous! That and a chain saw might get you both down to a 1x.. Who cares its their bodies. If they can make several grand an hour go for it. But then cows like you would have a hard time earning Ben Franklin an hour on 14St

Posted by: Size O | February 7, 2007 1:12 PM

I recently heard an interveiw with Barbara DeVries (70's era fashion model) who is the first person I have heard or read to finally take the DESIGNERS to task.

Face it - It's easy to design for a size 0 frame. The thinner the model, the less the need to design - great fabric, cute cuts, tacked darts and seams -- no problem if there is no body beneath them.

Show me the designer who makes GREAT looking clothes, with beautiful fabrics, great cut, perfectly positioned darts and seams -- for a size 12 model - and THAT is the sign of a great clothing designer. The rest of them are paper-doll manufacturers.

As usual, thanks Robin for an insightful article.

Posted by: Columbia MO | February 7, 2007 1:15 PM

I find it difficult to justify the deaths of teenagers (or anyone else for that matter) simply for the fact that it was their body, so who cares. Models are perfectly capable of making money with out being completely emaciated, and it is people who share Size 0's mindset that perpetuate that perception within the fashion world. It is sad that "Size 0" needs to lash out at others to affirm the "perfection" of her current size.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 7, 2007 1:36 PM

So glad to see the increased coverage of the skeletal model phenomenon. But looking at the pics on the DKNY site (especially the "swimwear" selection) has me wondering -- if Donna Karan hires "healthy-looking" models, then what the heck does that make the rest of us? All I see there the same knees-wider-than-thighs, sunken chest look. Hey fashion industry, listen to me! I am a size 4 woman who likes to dress well and has money to spend. But the images I see on the runways have no connection to me whatsoever. Why on earth would I want clothes designed to fit an emaciated teenager? When did gawky become the ideal?

Posted by: dkny | February 7, 2007 3:09 PM

Yay, fashion blog, I love it! I love that some dude had a bunch of strangers in his house...and didn't think to move the clearly sittable art. Idiot.

Posted by: h3 | February 7, 2007 4:50 PM

in high school i was 5'2", about 112 lb and wore a size 4 or 6. in college i was 5'2", about 110 lb and wore a size 2 or 4. now i am still 5'2", around 110 lb and i now wear a size 0. please don't hate all size 0's. i drink beer, eat meat and carbs, and never strive to be a size 0. neither my weight nor body shape has changed in over 15 years. the clothing produced has. sometimes, even size 0's are too big, and suddenly petites are too short. (how i wish the fashion industry would size women's close as they do men's clothes.) the emaciated models make me wonder (among other things) where they find they clothes, b/c even at 5'9+ i assume that they weigh less than i do.

Posted by: reluctanly 0 | February 7, 2007 4:52 PM

I looked at the slideshow of the Spring 2007 DKNY collection yesterday. Most of the models (both male and female) look like they are about to keel over.

Posted by: anon | February 7, 2007 7:31 PM

Hey Robin,

Great blog! I have a request/suggestion though. If as reluctantly 0 says that sizes have changed, then I would like to know a little bit more about exactly what size is dangerous, but instead of dress size, BMI or body fat percentage.

Posted by: Tim_G | February 8, 2007 6:53 AM

It is interesting that as the US inflates, the models deflate. It is also interesting that a size 0 at Banana Republic is now the equivalent of a 6 there a few years ago. As the general population gets more and more obese, the sizes lie to make them feel better. But we "want" our models to look like anorexic prepubescents? The whole coutnry has a very disordered relationship with food, exercise, etc. It seems the new American motto is "NOTHING in Moderation"

and by the way, I adore you columns and blog. Your writing is simply wonderful. Thanks!

Posted by: VA gal | February 8, 2007 9:48 AM

The most astonishing thing that has been said all week was by the fitness trainer at the CFDA panel on eating disorders. David Kirsch, who worked as a lawyer before becoming a fitness guru to fashion models like Naomi Campbell -- so he is not a dumb jock or unaware of the power of language -- actually said "I'd rather see a healthy size 4 than an unhealthy size 0."

Can the fashion industry's biases (and the blatant conflicts of interest surrounding the panel participants) be more obvious?

Posted by: BoycottTheBag.com | February 8, 2007 5:42 PM

Size 0? What is this world coming to? It is horrifying to see skeletons walk the runway. And, whoever had the audacity to post that women are jealous of the size 0 definately shows the kind of warped mindset that some weight obsessed women have. When someone (man or woman) becomes obsessed with weight to the point of a disorder, they think they see fat, but in reality, the body is nothing but skin and bones. The minds of these poor people play horrible tricks on them to make them think that are indeed too heavy or look great, when they actually look like the walking dead. I agree with the post that this reminds me of Schindler's List. I mean, it really does remind me of the complete starved and, actually, the piles of dead skeletal people after the Nazis threw them on top of one another. This is an emergency situation that needs to be stopped. Yes, it is their bodies, but would you want to stand by a see a suicide take place if the person was about to jump off of a ledge? Or do you want someone to at least try to talk them down. We are seeing a slow suicide taking place.

Posted by: merric | February 15, 2007 11:48 AM

im 15 and because i hear of size 0 people like my role models mischa barton and kate mossi wish i was like that
i wouldld do anything to be a size 0 unfortunately i jst can give up food.what will i do as i reali want to be a model

Posted by: hannah | February 18, 2007 12:02 PM

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